I’m a “None.”
That’s what pollsters are calling the many Americans who on recent national surveys claims no religious affiliation, who answers “none” to the question about what religion they are.
The ranks of the Nones have ballooned in recent years, making this the first time in U.S. history when the fastest growing religious affiliation is no religious affiliation. In 1972, about 7 percent of Americans identified as having no formal religious affiliation, which remained unchanged until 1990, when it reached 8 percent. Between 1990 and 2012, however, the percentage of the religious unaffiliated more than doubled to 19.6 percent, making it the second most significant “religious affiliation” next to Christianity in this country. Among younger Americans (those who have come “of age” since 1990), the numbers are more staggering. According to some sources, between 25 percent and 30 percent of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation—four times greater than in any previous generation.
One might assume that Nones do not believe in God; this is not the case. Fewer than 15 percent consider themselves atheists. For the most part, it seems, Nones are curious about spirituality—even deeply interested in it. We may have rejected organized religion, but we embrace transcendent feelings. We believe in God, though we might call it “the universe” or “the divine intelligence that created all this.” Most of us have reverence for a power greater than ourselves and we crave a deeper understanding of its significance.
This blog is a platform to share the results of a project I started two years ago: an exploration of religion from the perspective of someone who grew up without any (statisticians call us “Nones”). I decided to start with Christianity and see where it took me. My plan is to continue on through Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam.
It offically began when I plucked the Worship Directory out of my local paper in my new hometown. I had always swept right past it, but suddenly there it was: an entire page dedicated to listing the places of worship in my community. I studied it carefully. I found names I recognized but knew almost nothing about, then the denominations splintered into groupings that were foreign to me. In alphabetical order, the list read: Assembly of God, Baptist, Bible, Catholic, Christian Science, Church of Christ, Church of God, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal, Evangelical, Inter-Denominational Charismatic, Lutheran, Methodist, Nazarene, Non-Denominational, Presbyterian, Quaker, Reformed, Unitarian Universalist, and United Church of Christ. (I also noted a listing for a mosque, an Islamic center, and a “Jewish community” that doesn’t have a synagogue but gathers for worship and fellowship.) I counted over 50 options in total.
I decided to go–to all of them.
Along the way, I talk to, sing with, and worship alongside believers. We eat and pray together; with some, I hold hands, celebrate, become friends, and exchange emails. Through it all, I try to understand the ways in which what they believe might help us all.